CUNY to spend $8 million to create online program management unit

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The City University of New York plans to use $8 million in federal funding to create a new unit for developing online courses called “CUNY Online,” the system announced last week.

CUNY intends to hire instructional designers, animators and augmented-and virtual-reality designers and cinematographers to work with instructors on developing these courses and upgrading the online-learning experience. Friday was the deadline for departments across the 25-campus system to submit proposals for a first round of new online degrees or programs.

Higher education institutions often turn to online program management providers, like Wiley, 2U or Blackboard, to build their online programs. CUNY Online, though, was built internally, drawing on 15 years of online course development, said Jorge Silva-Puras, interim dean of the CUNY School of Professional Studies, which is hosting the new program.

The school already served as a central online learning resource for CUNY instructors when the pandemic hit. The goal is to launch between 14 and 20 new programs within the next year and a half, Silva-Puras said. 

CUNY is also currently selecting a learning management system for its students systemwide to view course materials, complete activities and upload assignments.

“Part of the idea is that the new online degrees that we create with CUNY Online will from the get-go be designed and developed in the ecosystem of the new LMS,” Silva-Puras said.

The new LMS needs to accommodate “top-of-the-line” audiovisual content, he said. The school is building three new recording studios and using studio facilities across its campuses to create CUNY Online materials.

The first round of programs developed through CUNY Online are fully online and asynchronous, but as the initiative develops, there are plans to incorporate in-person elements, Silva-Puras said. The School of Professional Studies currently partners with local organizations, like museums and healthcare providers, on hybrid programs. 

“That’s what we typically like to to focus on our programs — that active component, whether it’s in the form of a capstone or end of semester projects, but we certainly have many possibilities given because integration of industry here,” Silva-Puras said.

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